by William Goss
Once the dust settled, it would appear that Takers took the top spot at the box office away from The Last Exorcism (as initially estimated on Sunday), but the found-footage demon-possession movie still earned a respectable $20.3 million and will prove far more profitable for its studio than the heist flick will.
The thing is, Lionsgate wasn't content with letting word-of-mouth or reviews do the trick, eager instead to tweak their marketing campaign so as to suggest that the final product might be a bit freakier than it ultimately was -- and that sense of disappointment is what may have caused the numbers to take a tumble by Monday morning and could cause them to dip some more over this coming weekend.
I, for one, fell for the poster's suggestion that our poor Nell would find herself scaling the walls of the Sweetzer farm as advertised. She ends up cowering atop a wardrobe, but there's at least something physically supporting her. That isn't to mention a shot that shows her crawling across the floor, only flipped upside-down for the trailers and TV spots -- which is to say, one would've guessed that she ends up crawling on the ceiling in the film itself. No dice.
Lastly, there's an online spot, featured on MySpace and a few other websites over the weekend, that shows Nell gazing into a mirror on-camera as her eyeballs black out. Does that happen in the movie? Nope. For 98% of the running time, there aren't even visual effects that elaborate on display, helping ground the faux-documentary aesthetic. And yet the combined impact of these oh-shit/gotta-see moments is probably enough to cause people who did see the film to grumble about how it wasn't even that scary. (Besides, it wasn't Predators-level deceptive.)
If we want to split hairs, I felt it was a creepy enough film, but not necessarily a freaky one as advertised, whereas a classic like The Exorcism promised freaky before really going above and beyond. At the start of my review, I did my part to temper expectations. Did it work? Hell if I know. For Lionsgate, it's a money-maker, enough so to suggest that their slightly misleading marketing was worth it in the end.
Just don't look so surprised when Saw 3D doesn't actually have a laser-sighted dragon in it come this October...